Innovation - health & Biotechnologies
OpenViBE: The first French software programme enabling "action through thought"
OpenVibe software - © Inria/ Photo Kaksonen
Operating a computer by thought alone was unimaginable ten years ago, but this incredible feat is now possible. Financed by the ANR (the French national research agency), OpenViBE is the first French multi-partner project on brain-computer interfaces. With support from Inria (the French national institute for research in computer science and control) and Inserm (the French national institute of health and medical research), OpenViBE has successfully perfected a free software programme with highly promising applications.
A Brain-Computer Interface, or BCI, enables its user to send commands to a computer or machine only by means of brain activity. In 2005, while research in this field was almost non-existent in France, research scientists initiated a project called OpenViBE to carry out innovative research on brain-computer interfaces. By combining their knowledge on the workings of the brain with their technical and computer science expertise, the researchers succeeded in perfecting an ergonomic, easy to use programme four years after the project started.
The result of the eponymous project, OpenViBE is a genuine "interface" designed to translate what takes place in the brain into a command for a computer. In producing a support of this kind, the researchers at Inserm and Inria have opened up new prospects in a rapidly developing field of research, as regards not only signal processing and the optimisation of Man-Machine Interfaces, but also research on communication aids for people with reduced mobility, the treatment of certain neurological disorders and our understanding of how the brain works.
Four applications using the properties of the OpenViBE programme have already been developed by scientists. Three prototypes involve virtual reality and video games. The user, wearing helmets equipped with electrodes, will be able to pilot a space ship, play handball or move around in a virtual world, depending on the application. A fourth prototype, designed as a communication aid for people with reduced mobility, makes it possible to write on a computer simply by using thought.
The project has brought together four other partners around Inria and Inserm, each taking action in a specific scientific area: CEA LIST, AFM, GIPSA LAB and FRANCE TELECOM R&D
A public science and technology institution under the supervision of the ministries for Research and for Industry. Executives: Michel COSNARD, Chairman and CEO of Inria - Jean-Pierre VERJUS, Deputy Managing Director. Annual budget (2009): €200m, of which 21% is from its own resources. Regional research centres: Paris - Rocquencourt, Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée, Grenoble - Rhône-Alpes, Nancy - Grand Est, Rennes - Bretagne Atlantique, Bordeaux – Sud Ouest, Lille - Nord Europe, Saclay - Île-de-France. 2,800 researchers, including more than 1,000 PhD students, working within more than 160 project-teams, the majority of which are shared with other bodies, Grandes Ecoles and universities. 790 ongoing research agreements. 79 associate teams around the world. 94 businesses started since 1984.